Buchholz walked three batters in the first frame alone, surrendering two early runs to the Orioles before the Red Sox got a chance to bat. Baltimore ended up stealing the first game of this three-game set with a 7-3 win at Fenway Park.
Buchholz, who spent much of the past two months at Triple-A Pawtucket after going on the 15-day disabled list with a torn fingernail on his right index finger, did manage to settle down and even pitched through innings in which Baltimore could not touch him.
Buchholz struck out the side in the third inning, and fanned six batters overall. But the 23-year-old right-hander ran into situations in the first and fifth innings that forced him to leave the game after the fifth with a pitch count of 107.
"I think if you erase 18 pitches in that first inning and the runs and everything else, it turns out to be a pretty good outing," Buchholz said. "That was a rough inning for me, but they come and they go."
What didn't "go" for the Red Sox was continuous offensive output. Boston put together a strong second inning to tie the game and was in position to take the lead when a controversial play at first base took away a bit of momentum.
Julio Lugo drove in Sean Casey with a grounder to Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar, who had trouble handling the ball. Millar flipped to starter Brian Burres, who was covering first, and first-base umpire Doug Eddings called Lugo out despite replays that confirmed Lugo was safe well before the ball reached Burres' glove.
"[Eddings] thought he was out. I didn't agree," manager Terry Francona said. "I didn't think that was a very good call."
The Red Sox would eventually take the lead in the fourth, but they couldn't muster another threat until late in the ballgame, when they were facing a four-run deficit.
"It just wasn't a good game," first baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "We didn't play well. They went out there and got some good, timely hitting, and that's how they won."
Youkilis was at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, representing the tying run with the bases loaded. He saw two fastballs that sandwiched a slider and struck out on three pitches.
It was the first real threat the Red Sox had mounted since the fourth, when they took their sole lead of the ballgame.
Meanwhile, Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts was the catalyst for Buchholz's struggles throughout the game. Roberts finished a home run short of the cycle against Buchholz alone, going 3-for-5 in the contest with an RBI and two runs scored.
"He's not going to New York as an All-Star player for us, and he's an All-Star player to me," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "What he does for the club and what he does to make the team go, I think, speaks for itself. The way he played tonight -- that's pretty darn hard."
Roberts doubled to lead off the game, then stole third to place a runner 90 feet from home before Buchholz even had time to settle in on the mound. Roberts scored on Adam Jones' sacrifice fly moments later.
That type of run production was not in the cards for the Red Sox on this night. Boston, coming off an 18-run offensive explosion against Minnesota on Wednesday, did not have the same prowess at the plate against Baltimore.
"We didn't play very good," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We seemed to have no energy. I don't know if that day off kind of seemed too relaxed, but we didn't play very good."
Pedroia, who saw his career-high 17-game hitting streak snapped in the contest, drew a pivotal walk in the ninth inning that loaded the bases and allowed Youkilis the chance to potentially tie the game.
But Pedroia wasn't exactly worried about the streak.
"I'm not here to break any hitting-streak records," he said. "I'm here to win baseball games. That's about it."
That didn't happen for Buchholz or the Red Sox, even if the young right-hander showed increasing confidence after that long first inning. That's what he said he'd take away from this first outing back as the season heads into the second half.
"I left some balls over the middle of the plate. That's what happens when you do that," Buchholz said. "But the overview for me, over the whole game, I felt like I threw the ball really well."